Continuing in its series of outreach events, NU Divest held its fifth event — a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) workshop — on Thursday. The goal of the workshop, presented by Weinberg juniors Alexa Klein-Mayer and Hazim Abdullah, was to educate the crowd about the BDS movement, as well as to dispel common misconceptions about it.
Approximately 40 students and community members attended the event, which was presented in a style similar to previous events hosted by NU Divest, such as Palestine 101.
Abdullah stated at the beginning of the presentation that the BDS movement is often portrayed as “unnecessarily divisive” by its critics, but both Abdullah and Klein-Mayer repeatedly noted that the BDS movement is not a call for any political resolution to the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine. They said that it is, rather, a way of both ending complicity in human rights violations and responding to the Palestinian call.
The presentation focused on explaining the different elements of boycotts, divestments and sanctions called for by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.
The BDS movement, the presenters said, was largely modeled on a similar movement calling on institutions to divest from the South African apartheid in the 1980’s.
Northwestern did not fully divest from companies profiting from apartheid.
Boycotts are typically carried out by individuals or institutions, while sanctions are carried out by governments. These methods are not the main focus of NU Divest or similar movements across college campuses, but they target similar companies and structures which may be involved in human rights violations occurring in occupied Palestine.
NU Divest has identified six multinational corporations from which it is asking the University to pull investments in its endowment. These include Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which are both arms suppliers.
Klein-Mayer and Abdullah went over some of the key points in the resolution that NU Divest will propose to ASG.
“As future leaders, we should be holding ourselves accountable and really challenging ourselves about ethics and things beyond the status quo,” said Abdullah.
“And homework,” chimed in Klein-Mayer.
Certain clauses of the resolution call for “financial neutrality” in the occupation, and although financial information is not available from the university, Klein-Mayer said that it is likely that Northwestern may be invested in these large companies.
“To divest is to maintain some sort of neutrality,” she said. “By being invested we’ve already taken a stance. We’re asking our university to step back and say, ‘No, we don’t want to be involved in occupation.’”
Jamie Rivers, a Weinberg sophomore who attended the event to learn more about NU Divest, said that certain issues that resonate with her personally, such as Black Lives Matter, shouldn’t preclude joining and understanding other movements.
“I’m so used to worrying about my own issues,” she said. “It’s like preaching to the choir. Getting the message out to people who don’t think about [issues like the Palestinian occupation] opens ears and minds,” she said.
Weinberg junior Cinthya Rodríguez, who is involved with both NU Divest and MEChA de Northwestern, said she sees new faces at each event. “Without [events and outreach], there is no movement,” she said.
“We’re answering the Palestinian call to uphold their rights, and we’re linking struggles,” she said, referencing the fact that multinational corporations can be complicit in human rights violations around the world. “That’s vision. It’s more than just a campus event — it’s building consciousness and solidarity.”